A new Darwin Plus project will take further steps to rescue the threatened Caicos pine from local extinction by guiding its future conservation based on science, experience and a long-term collaboration between Kew and Turks and Caicos Islands partner institutions.
The Caicos pine (Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis) also known as Caribbean pine, is the only native pine species of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and Bahamas. It is the dominant canopy species in the pine forests of this region and an important timber tree, but has undergone significant decline in recent years. The pine is a keystone species of the forests, supporting the diversity and functioning of this species-rich habitat, which is home to several threatened species, including Caroline's pink (Stenandrium carolinae) and the TCI rock iguana (Cyclura carinata). The conservation and restoration of the Caicos pine forests is therefore vitally important for the biodiversity of these islands and for maintaining the associated ecosystem services.
The current and most damaging threat to the Caicos pine in TCI is the exotic invasive scale insect Toumeyella parvicornis (pine tortoise scale). The pest infestation resulted in the Caicos pine receiving Vulnerable status on the IUCN red list (Sanchez, Hamilton & Farjon, 2013). Scientific studies of the pine forests and a growing ex situ collection have been developed in recent years, but further scientific research is needed to guide future planning and restoration of the TCI pine forests. This will be undertaken as part of the new multidisciplinary Kew-led Darwin Plus project Caicos pine forests: mitigation against climate change and invasive species.